EDITOR'S NOTE:James Craig, the late father of reporter Ashley B. Craig, was recently recognized at a ceremony honoring black first responders. What follows are her remarks in accepting his award.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - My father was the law in the little house where I grew up in eastern Kanawha County.
Deputy James R. Craig worked for the Kanawha County Sheriff's Office for a little more than seven years. He worked all over the county, as deputies tend to do, but he spent most of his time up east working out of the Quincy office. In all that time, he was Kanawha County's only black deputy.
Born and raised in Rand, his mother, Lorene, often said he was in trouble more than he was out of trouble. It was never anything too bad, but enough to get his hide tanned when he finally scurried home.
A 1971 DuPont High graduate, he spent a semester at a technical college in Ohio, but that didn't fit. He worked at an alloy plant here in West Virginia and then for a utility company in Texas.
It seemed he didn't know what he wanted to do with himself, until one day he did. He attended Marshall University and finished a few years later in 1982 with a degree in criminal justice, something he was immensely proud of as the first in his family to earn a college degree.
After that he took a job as a jail officer at the old Kanawha County Jail. My father had a lot of keys to a lot of doors, keys that I remember playing with as a child and loved hearing because it meant Daddy was home. He also gave us the best tours when the jail closed in the late '90s.
He was sworn in as a Kanawha sheriff's deputy in 1989. One of my first memories as a child was going up to the West Virginia State Police Academy in Institute to visit him where he was undergoing his basic officer training. He finished there first in his class.
He was 36 when he started as a deputy. I couldn't have been more than 4.
My father worked the night shift most often, as new officers were assigned to do. I can remember him coming home late at night, hearing his keys as he came in. He'd change out of his uniform and take a shower, then come in to the room I shared with my younger brother and sister.
Always a night owl, I was usually awake when he came home. I'd ask him if he got any bad guys that shift and he'd always say yes.
He loved his job. He liked talking to people and reaching out to them. He was involved with Cops for Christ, a group of police officers who in addition to keeping the peace also spread the word of God, and the Blue Knights, a motorcycle club made up of law enforcement officers.
He also liked working with children. He was a DARE instructor for a number of years. We were his sounding board at home. He would use the same methods he used on us at home to teach the children at the schools he went to.
If he was ever scared out there working the town streets and darkened back roads, he never showed it. He'd go right up in the hollows if called and deal with whatever situation they had to throw at him.
The first time I ever saw real fear was when he couldn't do it anymore.